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We have a reciprocal arrangement with Effingham Bridge Club whereby, members can play (Duplicate) on Friday evenings, at South Bookham Space, Dorking Road, Great Bookham, Surrey, KT23 4PB at 7.30.p.m.   Table money only £2.50  per session.

 

 
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25th May 2017 14:05 BST
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Cuba's new luxury hotels aim to lure US Tourists

HOTEL GROUNDS

In Havana’s Parque Central, shady stone benches and graceful palm trees beckon to mojito-sipping tourists and locals gathering to shoot the breeze. The gathering spot, in the centre of town, is surrounded by horse-drawn carriages and long lines of colourful finned-and-chromed 1950s cars. But more utilitarian vehicles have recently begun circling the square: construction equipment transforming old buildings into luxury hotels. “So many old buildings sat vacant for years with signs saying they were soon to be converted into hotels,” said Belmont Freeman, a Cuban-American architect based in New York. “Now I actually see cranes on construction sites. Cuban bureaucracy is easing up, and foreign hotel developers are finally finding ways to move these projects forward.” President Raúl Castro’s loosening restrictions on private enterprise, improving relations with the United States and financial necessity — Cuba’s gross domestic product shrank in 2016, for the first time in over 20 years, according to official figures — have fuelled rapid change in many areas.

And several obstacles lie between the pent-up demand and a successful lift-off of Cuba’s luxury hotels. Utilities are not always reliable, poverty is widespread and visible, and even getting ingredients for restaurant-quality meals can be dicey. But with Cuba suddenly an option for Americans exploring a culture kept off-limits for decades, the hospitality industry in particular has been supercharged. Over four million tourists visited in 2016, up 13 percent from the previous year, according to the Cuban Ministry of Tourism. Among those visitors were over 614,000 Americans, up 34 percent from the year before. Leading the wave of new luxury hotels is the 246-room Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana, which stands in a restored European-style shopping arcade that stretches for a block. On the other side of Parque Central is the Hotel Inglaterra, which opened in 1875 and had Winston Churchill as one of its guests. Within shouting distance are several other luxury hotels managed by the French group Accor and Iberostar of Spain.

The Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana, left, near old Havana housing. Much of the city has been overtaken by poverty since the Cuban Revolution in the 1950s, creating an uncomfortable juxtaposition between struggling locals and wealthy visitors.

After delays and months of mounting anticipation, Kempinski has finally revealed the name of its newest, first ever Havana property, expected for completion sometime this spring. Although no exact date has been given yet, we can confirm that the opening is going ahead as planned before the end of May 2017, so guests looking for the ultimate refinement in the Cuban capital won´t have too long to wait after all. The gleaming new Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana welcomes guests to what many industry experts regard as Cuba’s first five-star hotel, at least by most international standards. Many predict that the luxury levels the Kempinski brand will bring to the Cuban capital will be unmatched in the rest of the country and will remain thus for some time to come. Although many other self-proclaimed five-star hotels in Cuba do indeed exist, none is expected to rival the new Kempinski, which is poised to beat all other luxury favourites in the capital such as the Saratoga (where a long list of celebrities have recently stayed – from Beyonce to Madonna) or the Melia Habana (where the Obamas’ entourage famously stayed). In short, the new Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana, is expected to go a long way in raising the bar and pushing up standards in Cuba’s developing hospitality industry.

From the Constante’s windows, guests can see El Floridita, one of Hemingway’s local watering holes (and where the drink was created). Rooms range in size from 430 to 1,615 square feet and will cost from $370 to $660 per night, according to Alessandro Benedetti, a director of Kempinski’s sales and marketing department. Five stories tall, the Manzana also has a rooftop terrace and swimming pool that offers views of the Great Theater of Havana Alicia Alonso, the National Museum’s Palace of Fine Arts and the Capitolio, a national government building that resembles the Capitol in Washington, though its architect is said to have modeled it on the Panthéon in Paris. The top floor also has a fitness area and spa that cover over 10,000 square feet. From the windows in the massage room, drying clothes can also be seen hanging from the broken windows of crumbling buildings nearby. This region of the city has been nicknamed “las sábanas blancas,” or “the white sheets,” for the laundry frequently seen fluttering in the breeze.

Indeed, the building boom is also bringing into sharper relief the disparity between visitors and the average Cuban. Many Cubans work for the state and earn the equivalent of $25 to $30 a month. The ceiling on state employees’ salaries has been a challenge when hiring hospitality staff for these new luxury hotels in Havana. While it remains to be seen how tightly it will control private enterprise, the Cuban government is betting that tourism will help solve its economic woes. In 2016, the government declared a goal of 10 million visitors by 2030.

The Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana, left, near old Havana housing. Much of the city has been overtaken by poverty since the Cuban Revolution in the 1950s, creating an uncomfortable juxtaposition between struggling locals and wealthy visitors.     

Summer had clearly arrived as 13 full Tables turned out on a beautifully sunny evening to contest our regular Club Night at the Oxshott Bridge Club yesterday evening. You can read all about it in the Report by clicking on the "Competitions" tab in the Menu to the left of this Box. Alternatively you can study the full Leaderboard and the individual Travellers by clicking on the "Latest Result" button at the top right of this page.

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President:

                 Alan Hammond

 
Chairman: Gail Norman
Secretary: Janet Kefford
                                            
 
Meets at Oxshott Village Centre, Holmwood Road, Oxshott KT22 0QL
 
Duplicate Bridge on Wednesday Evenings at 7.30 p.m.
 
 
 
If you would like to attend as a prospective Member or as a Guest, please call our Secretary, Janet Kefford, on 01932 863541 to make arrangements.
Click for the latest results
Click for the Members Only section

President:

                 Alan Hammond

 
Chairman: Gail Norman
Secretary: Janet Kefford
                                            
 
Meets at Oxshott Village Centre, Holmwood Road, Oxshott KT22 0QL
 
Duplicate Bridge on Wednesday Evenings at 7.30 p.m.
 
 
 
If you would like to attend as a prospective Member or as a Guest, please call our Secretary, Janet Kefford, on 01932 863541 to make arrangements.